Coast Guard task force returned to Anchorage Friday after a nine-day deployment conducting facility inspections in Northwest Arctic Borough.
From July 6 through 15, members of Sector Anchorage’s Marine Safety Task Force (MSTF) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inspected 24 bulk fuel storage facilities in 11 Alaskan communities, including Kotzeue, Kivalina, Noorvik, Selawik, and Utqiagvik.
Sector Anchorage has approximately 380 inspected waterfront facilities in their area of responsibility (AOR), 346 of which are not accessible by road.
“Fuel facilities are critical to the survival of these remote communities,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Houvener, a marine science technician and team lead. “They rely on fuel to heat their homes and schools during sub-freezing winter months. Many of these facilities are located in remote parts of the state with a lack of available resources and infrastructure, which means outside help isn’t readily available to them if something goes wrong. So, it’s important for us to ensure their facilities are not putting them or the environment at unnecessary risk.”
The primary goal of facility inspections is to ensure public safety and protection of our marine environment throughout Alaska. Repairs are expensive, and failure of these facilities could negatively impact remote Alaskan villages and potentially leave them unable to heat their homes and schools, operate their vehicles, and continue their way of life. Remote pollution incidents require significantly higher levels of resources to clean up.
“We were grateful for the opportunity to work with our partner federal agency, the Coast Guard, conducting joint inspections,” said Torri Huelskoetter, on-scene coordinator for EPA. “Our goals were to get eyes on the facilities, establish relationships within the communities, and work toward regulatory compliance. These communities face unique challenges. By going there and speaking with them, we can better address the issues they’re facing and work with them to meet compliance.”
MSTF are multi-mission teams from Coast Guard Sector Anchorage deployed to service Arctic and Western Alaska regional hub communities and from there, service more rural and remote communities in a “hub and spoke” approach. Each MSTF is tasked with meeting the needs of the regulated community by providing commercial fishing vessel exams, bulk oil storage facility inspections, and port state control exams over an approximate two to three-week period.